- White, who grew up in Charlotte, N.C., led her team to four straight state high school championships in 2011-14.
- The McDonald's All-American signed with South Carolina in 2014, but transferred to Texas in 2016.
- After sitting out last season, White is averaging 12.6 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the Longhorns.
Jatarie White is grateful that Texas offered her a chance to revive her basketball career.
And the Longhorns are grateful to have White, the starting center who has become a vital piece of a team that has Final Four aspirations. The junior transfer from South Carolina has discovered teammates and a coaching staff that are thrilled she’s wearing burnt orange.
And for the first time in her college career, she’s beginning to resemble the McDonald’s All-American who helped her Charlotte (N.C.) Providence Day School teams win four straight state championships from 2011-14.
“She’s pretty accustomed to doing the things you need to win,” Texas coach Karen Aston said.
Aston, who coached at UNC-Charlotte from 2007 to 2011, said she remembers a young White making frequent trips to the 49ers’ gym, showing impressive skills for someone who was barely a teenager.
Aston left Charlotte for North Texas after the 2011 season and then was hired by the Longhorns in 2012. White, who had blossomed into an All-American, made an official visit to Texas during recruiting. But she chose to play for Dawn Staley at South Carolina, saying she wanted to stay close to home.
But White, citing injuries and a lack of playing time, grew unhappy at South Carolina. To make matters worse, she said she never felt close to her teammates or coaches there. In 52 games over two seasons, she averaged 2.7 points and 2.6 rebounds.
She transferred to Texas after the 2016 season, then sat out last year per NCAA rules. She made her Longhorns debut in the season-opening win over Stetson, contributing 9 points and 9 rebounds in 16 minutes.
Through five games, the 6-4 post is averaging 12.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 19.6 minutes and has solidified a position vacated by 6-5 former Longhorn Kelsey Lang.
White is thriving with a team that stresses a family atmosphere.
“At Texas, I can go to any of my teammates if I have a problem,” she said. “At South Carolina, I wouldn’t go to anyone except one friend I really liked.”
For a change, White said she feels like she belongs on a team.
“I didn’t trust anybody (at USC),” she said. “Here, my teammates build a trust with me and we talk to each other. Like Ariel (Atkins), we go out and talk about what we believe in and what’s keeping us down. That’s important for a team because you need to be able to trust the people you’re on the court with.”
Associate head coach Tina Thompson recently said White offers a “physical presence” in the paint. Lang, an exceptional shot blocker who had great offensive instincts, was often labeled a “finesse” player.
How would White describe herself?
“I’m a finesse player, too, but I also like contact,” she said. “I don’t shy away from contact. I love physical post play but I can go to a finesse game if I need to be.”
White added that assistant coach George Washington is trying to develop her into an occasional three-point shooter.
Aston said the combination of White and 6-4 senior forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau has worked well together. The Longhorns rank ninth in the country (out of 345 teams) in rebounding margin, averaging 21.7 more rebounds than their opponents per game.
“We’ll learn more about ourselves in every game going forward,” the coach said. “Everyone left is gong to teach us something.”